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addabook - The Island at the Center of the World
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The Island at the Center of the World
The Epic Story of Dutch Manhattan and the Forgotten Colony That Shaped America
Russell Shorto
read on February 1, 2011

Emily and I were planning a trip to New York, so I decided it would be helpful, or at least interesting, to have some historical context for the place that we were about to visit.

While I'm not really sure how much of it I retained, this book was really interested. I'm somewhat embarrased to say it's some of the only "history" I've read since about, well, high school, and it was much more engaging than I expected.

The main takaway for me was (duh) that NY was colonized by the Dutch looong before the British came to Jamestown. The Dutch had setup quite a robust little trading post. There were loads of fun stories that related directly to modern day events/locations; for instance, Wall St was named so because that road actually used to be the outer wall of the colony.

Anyway, I'm definitely more interested in the history genre now, and without a doubt the knowledge I picked up here defintely enriched the NY trip. Success!

Author Bio:

Russell Shorto (born February 8, 1959) is an American author, historian and journalist, best known for his book on the Dutch origins of New York City, The Island at the Center of the World. Shorto's research for this book relied greatly on the work of the New Netherland Project (now known as the New Netherland Research Center) and the New Netherland Institute. Shorto is the New Netherland Research Center's 2013 Senior Scholar. His most recent work, published in October 2013, is Amsterdam: A History of the World's Most Liberal City, which tells the story of the city from its origins, through its Golden Age, to the present day. Born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on February 8, 1959, Shorto is a 1981 graduate of George Washington University. He is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and was (2008 - 2013) director of the John Adams Institute in Amsterdam, where he lived for 6 years, from 2007 to 2013. As of 2014, Shorto resides in Cumberland, Maryland, where he is working on his next book, a narrative history of the American Revolution. On September 8, 2009, Shorto received a Dutch knighthood in the Order of Orange-Nassau for strengthening the relationship between the Netherlands and the United States through his publications and as Director of the John Adams Institute.